Different Styles of Cheeses

June 7, 2010

When it comes to classifications of cheeses, they are usually broken down into how firm they are, what kind of rind, and how they were allowed to ripen and age.

First off, the basic fundamental part of the cheese is knowing what kind of milk the cheese was made from. In Making Artisan Cheeses, Tim Smith describes cow’s milk as being the most common, with its creamy high moisture yield. Goat’s milk makes for smoother, softer cheeses than cow’s milk due to its smaller fat globules. Smith reasons that since sheep produce a smaller volume of milk than cows yet has the same total amount of solids, it makes for a denser cheese with an oil and butterfat that goes to the surface. Thing is, you can process all three milks the same way to make the same cheese, but they will all taste different.

The Cheese Companion by Judy Ridgway and updated by Sara Hill talk about cheeses in the sense of softness, rinds, cheesemaking process, and ripening process.  I have supplemented some of their descriptions with information from the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins.

Softness

  • Very Soft: 80% water and spoonable; includes most fresh cheeses
  • Soft: 50-70% water and spreadable, including Brie and Camembert.
  • Semi-hard: 40-50% water and sliceable with a slightly rubbery texture. Gouda is a good example.
  • Semi-hard blue: crumbly or springy blue cheeses including Roquefort and Stilton
  • Hard: 30-50% water and firm, perhaps slightly crumbly or dense cheese, including Cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan

Rinds

  • White mold rinds: Cheeses which contain an outer rind of white mold that is edible. The mold is introduced either via exposure, or being sprayed on. Examples include Brie and Camembert.
  • Washed rinds: a cheese that is washed in brine, wine, beer, or spirits to act as a food for bacteria, causing an orange-red rinded cheese that is soft.
  • Dry Natural rinds: rinds in which the outer curds dried out. They are sometimes oiled. These rinds are not eaten. Examples include Stilton, Cheddar, and Emmental
  • Organic Rinds: rinds of cheeses made from herbs or leaves.
  • Artificial rinds: rinds made of ash, wax, or plastic.

Cheesemaking Process

  • Fresh: Uncooked curds that are unripened or allowed to ripen only for a few days. Maybe be slightly pressed or molded, but most of the time just packed into tubs, so they are usually very moist and mild. Examples: Mascarpone and cream cheese
  • Unpressed ripened cheese: Curds are cut up finely to allow whey to drain naturally. They maybe be quick-ripened with surface molds or bacteria, or slow-ripened with starter cultures for one to three months. Examples: Brie, Camembert, and Stilton
  • Pressed ripened cheese: cheese that are lightly or heavily pressed before ripening for two to eighteen months. Example: Cheddar
  • Cooked, Pressed, and ripened cheese: The curds are heated in the whey before drained, molded, and heavily pressed, and possibly aged for up to four years. Examples: Gouda, Parmesan, Gruyère, and Emmental
  • Pasta Filata cheese: cheeses in which the curds are cooked and then kneaded and stretched before shaping. They can be eaten fresh or allowed to ripen. Examples: Mozzerella and Provolone.

Ripening Process

  • Soft cheeses: ripened at lower temperatures from the outside in quickly, such as mold rind. They tend to be semisoft.
  • Washed rind: a cheese that is washed in brine, wine, beer, or spirits to act as a food for bacteria, causing an orange-red rind cheese that is soft.
  • Natural-rind cheeses: self-formed rinds; no microflora or molds and no washing are used to create their thin exteriors. They are denser in texture than other cheeses and usually aged longer.
  • Blue cheese: a cheese that has been pierced with metal skewers to introduce oxygen into the interior of the cheese, which causes it to mold.
  • Hard cheeses: ripened at higher temperatures from the inside out slowly. They may be covered in oil or rapped in bandages.

Additional Readings:

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